By John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV
ST. PAUL (WCCO) — It’s been a tough few months for Minnesota sports fans. The Vikings, Wolves and Wild all struggled, not to mention a bunch of Gopher teams. However, the University of St. Thomas has been an island of success in that sea of struggles.
The Tommies won the NCAA Division III men’s basketball title this weekend, capping a year full of accomplishments with a once-in-a-lifetime championship.
It was an unusually normal day Monday at the St. Thomas athletic facility, where John Nance is working, checking-in fellow students, just two days after helping the Tommies win the national title.
“Winning it all is just a dream come true,” said Nance, a senior forward.
The Tommies won the trophy in Division III, where athletes don’t get scholarships and play for the love of the game. They did, however, have a first-rate celebration, and a first class ride home, on an NCAA chartered plane.
“The charter was fantastic,” said Nance. “I talked to the (flight attendant), and she said Duke rode on it, and Michigan State. She talked about Tom Izzo and Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), so it was great.”
And the players are still talking about the trophy they won, which sits in coach Steve Fritz’ office.
“They’re exactly the same for all levels,” said Fritz, talking about the trophies. “And it’s pretty cool. We’re not giving that up for anything.”
However, their on-campus celebration will have to wait. Most students, and even players, are gone for spring break. Still, we found some supporters at a campus restaurant.
“It’s good for the school,” said senior John Buchholz. “And any time we do well in something, it’s good for the school.”
“I think for me as an educator, it’s easier to smile about sports success at St. Thomas,” said Professor Phil Anderson. “Because it’s Division III, there isn’t all this money sloshing around.”
St. Thomas has had plenty of sports success this year. The football team and volleyball team each made the NCAA’s final eight.